Being from the Midwest, I didn’t know anything about Cuban sandwiches until I moved to California. You read that correctly. It took a move 1,600 miles in the wrong direction for me to finally experience the warm, toasty delights of the Mixto — roasted pork, sliced ham, swiss cheese, pickles and yellow mustard on fresh Cuban bread pressed with a plancha (iron) and cut diagonally across the center. ¡Delicioso! So far be it from me to shy away from sampling the newest addition to the Hot Pockets line-up, the Limited Edition Cuban Style Hot Pocket.
Much like the East Coast/West Coast hip hop feud of yore, there’s a rivalry between Tampa and Miami regarding ownership of the Cuban sandwich. Tampa appears to be the original home of the Mixto (a.k.a the Cubano), which was introduced there in the 1890s by hungry Cuban cigar factory workers in the Ybor City neighborhood. They did, however, add salami to the sandwich — a highly controversial move, especially considering how Miami’s sandwich artists have adhered to the traditional recipe. I suppose this would be the “Who Shot Ya?” event of the sandwich war because things really popped off after that.
Suffice it to say, the salami-free Limited Edition Cuban Style Hot Pockets seem to welcome me to the city where the heat is on, all night on the beach ‘til the break of dawn. Bienvenido a Miami…
These Hot Pockets are demanding that I get Pitbull on the phone and tell him to meet us in the V.I.P. at LIV for some bottle service after the Heat game and then afterwards, crank up the salsa as we speed to the Ritz-Carlton South Beach in our yellow Lambo for the after party.
But before I book that plane ticket, let’s pause for a moment and talk about Cuban bread. It’s delicious and airy with that necessary touch of fat that makes Cuban bread Cuban and almost all other bread crap. I can’t be sure that the Hot Pockets people have injected lard into their crust, but the Cuban Style Hot Pocket is soft and delicious. True, the crust isn’t crispy since these Hot Pockets are heated in the microwave and don’t come with a crisping sleeve, but it isn’t soggy either. It manages to maintain a perfectly bread-like exterior with the right amount of give and softness without becoming a mushy mess.
When it comes to the innards of the Limited Edition Cuban Style Hot Pockets, they closely approximate the makeup of authentic Cuban sandwiches. They are full of pickle flavor, but I’m at a loss trying to explain where the intense pickle-y taste actually comes from. How did they manage to get so much flavor out of these itsy bitsy chunks of pickle? The meat portion of this Hot Pocket consists of diced ham and sliced pork — two delicious meats that come from the same magically delicious animal. There is a hint of mustard in the Hot Pocket, but it definitely takes a backseat to the pickle flavor.
The Limited Edition Cuban Style Hot Pocket is a winner with a pleasantly soft crust, savory pork bits, gooey Swiss cheese, tangy pickles, and no salami. Though it lacks the crispy, toasted texture one can only get from using a sandwich press instead of a microwave, I am positive that anyone looking for some Cubano goodness won’t be disappointed. Just don’t tell Tampa.
(Nutrition Facts – 1 sandwich – 260 calories, 90 fat calories, 10 grams of fat, 3.5 grams of saturated fat, 0 grams of trans fat, 30 milligrams of cholesterol, 680 milligrams of sodium, 32 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, 3 grams of sugar, 10 grams of protein, 15% Calcium, 10%Iron, 0% Vitamin C, 2% Vitamin A.)
Item: Limited Edition Cuban Style Hot Pockets
Purchased Price: $2.00 (on sale)
Size: 2 sandwiches
Purchased at: Ralphs
Rating: 8 out of 10
Pros: Pickles, pork & cheese. Thick, soft bread. Lard injections. Pitbull.
Cons: Teensy mystery pickles. Sandwich feuds. Definitely not plancha crispy. Only around for a short time.